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Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Human Rights Council, Geneva

UK Statement delivered during the Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Inside the Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council is meeting from 8 to 26 September in Geneva

Thank you Mr President,

Mr Pinheiro,

The UK thanks the Commission of Inquiry for its latest report and for its ongoing work to document human rights violations and abuses in Syria.

After three and a half years of sustained bloodshed, the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, with systematic and widespread violations and abuses of international law. The evidence presented by the Commission makes clear that government forces, or those of extremist groups, some of which are linked to Assad, are responsible for the majority of the worst violations. The Commission is also clear that some of these violations amount to crimes against humanity.

The UK is deeply concerned about reports of the use of chlorine gas by Syrian government forces. The horrific attacks on his own civilians with chemical, as well as conventional weapons, further highlights Assad’s disregard for international legal obligations, human rights and basic humanity.

We also remain deeply concerned by your findings that Assad’s forces are responsible for the torture in detention of ‘tens of thousands’ of people, subjecting victims to unimaginable suffering.

The UK has a long-standing commitment to ensure that all those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria are held to account. As part of that, we are intensifying our efforts on accountability, funding the investigation of atrocities, looking to add individuals responsible for war crimes to the EU sanctions list, and working to further build the already strong support for referral to the International Criminal Court.

The information the Commission collects on the crimes committed in Syria and the alleged perpetrators is instrumental to support future accountability efforts. We welcome the Commission’s report which divides non-state armed groups into anti-government groups, ISIL and Kurdish groups. Your report demonstrates that ISIL have a different agenda from the rest of the opposition and have a significant level of responsibility for human rights abuses and war crimes.

The participation of extremist groups in the conflict poses a threat not only to Syria, but also to regional and international security. ISIL is not only spreading a reign of terror, but its members are reported to have committed heinous acts, equivalent to crimes against humanity.

The UK will continue to condemn all violations and abuses of human rights, regardless of who commits them. Those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held to account.

Thank you, Mr President.

Published 16 September 2014